Getting Older: New Friends, New Bodies, “Old” Selves

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Russian dolls lined up.The other night I was spending time with a new friend. We were doing what people our age, particularly moms our age, tend to do, which is lament the changes in our aging bodies. (I say moms because we, you know, gave birth, but dads do this too!) And then, because we couldn’t help ourselves, we went back. We showed each other old photos of ourselves when we were so much skinnier, prettier, and younger

I don’t have anything against this act of reminiscing. In fact, I love it. We all do. There’s a meme about old friends who get together; all they talk about are stories from ten years ago.

Our physical bodies are the most potent reminder that we have changed. We have grown (ugh, sorry). 

When I was growing up, I had a set of those Matryoshka or Russian nesting dolls. I loved opening each one and setting them up in a row, then popping the little replicas back inside until just the one largest doll remained and setting her back on my shelf.

Getting older means looking back. It’s like prying open the lid of the big doll to peer inside. To view all the former versions of ourselves that existed. We line ourselves up in a row and compare and compare and compare. We do this through Facebook photo albums (so many albums), replaying those nights at the local bar, and showing new friends evidence of our old selves. 

When we are young, we spend so much time thinking about the person we will be. We wonder where we’ll live, what kind of job we’ll have, and who we’ll still be friends with. Then, we suddenly open our eyes to see our train has arrived. 

I step out into this life I have built and am so happy to be here. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to call that girl I see in the photos. To tell her all the things I now know. Tell her she really is skinny (pretty/smart/fun/interesting). But youth comes with doubt, and age comes with (some) wisdom.

So at some point, you have to place your old self back inside and close the lid. There’s more “you” to build and grow. You’re making a new version of yourself at this very moment, and it’s her time on the shelf.

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Juliana is an English teacher, aspiring novelist, and mother to redheaded sons. (No, her husband doesn't have red hair. Yes, it was a surprise!) She grew up in Scarsdale and now teaches at her rival high school - Mamaroneck - where she also lives with her (brown-haired) husband, Mike, and their two (orange-haired, according to Noah) sons, Noah (2016) and Simon (2019). When she has a free moment (haha) she is reading something: YA Romance, humorous essays, poetry, thrillers, student work, and, sometimes, her own works-in-progress.

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